by M. Anthony Davis
As a Black parent, I have had conversations about race with my oldest daughter, who is 7, for most of her life. I remember being young and receiving lessons or hearing anecdotes about racism or how to behave in the presence of police when I was her age and younger.
The events last summer turned those stories into a concrete reality. I had discussed issues like police brutality with my daughter before, but these conversations were primarily based on reaction to news stories or my reaction to events that happened to close friends or family members. I would understand the firsthand accounts, then relay information to her.
The protests over the summer opened a new reality to my daughter. For the first time, she not only heard me speak on the importance of Black lives, but she had the opportunity to march for Black lives herself. Being at rallies, hearing speakers, and marching with thousands of people opened her 7-year-old eyes to the power and impactful nature of protest. Our conversations became more robust and her understanding of the world, and specifically how harsh this world can be to Black folks, was an enlightening experience for her and a breathtaking experience for me. I was impressed with how much her mind could process, but I was disappointed that she and her peers are having these experiences.
Last week’s events at the Capitol building was a harder conversation. Explaining white supremacy and how it affects Black lives through the lens of police violence is a “hand-me-down” conversation. I was able to cherry-pick pieces from conversations I had with my parents growing up and repackage them into our conversations. I had no blueprint for a conversation on how white nationalists hate the idea of democracy so much that they attempted a coup in hopes of stopping the certification of the United States presidential election. Accompanied with images of white-on-white violence, Confederate flags, false patriotism, a sitting president fanning the flames, and the potential failure of democracy itself — how am I to explain this to a 7-year-old?
The answer is simple. We talked. Just like we talk about everything else. The mind of a child is truly amazing. Question after question, she dug into me with her youthful inquisitiveness. She wanted to understand. I wanted to explain. I’m not even sure she fully comprehends the magnitude of the situation our country finds itself in. Her biggest question to me is, “Why does Trump still get to be president?” The irony is, I have asked myself the same question hundreds of times over the last four years. Even now, after his second impeachment, I’m still not sure that he will be removed.
The most difficult part of the conversations for me was figuring out how to answer when she asked if the police were going to hurt those people. When we watched the protests over the summer, especially when watching live streams from Converge Media, we witnessed flash bangs and blast balls exploding. We saw chaos and commotion and bodies scattering as police suited in riot gear physically dispersed crowds. Even at 7 years old, my daughter was able to immediately pick up on the differences of policing and without fully understanding the complex history of white nationalists or concepts of white supremacy and privilege — she was worried about police hurting the protestors and was confused when they didn’t.
That part hurt me. Even without fully comprehending racial disparities, our kids are learning their place in the world. They see how protestors marching for Black lives are met with force and aggression, and then how the white nationalists who stormed the capitol were treated with dignity even as they committed crimes in the presence of police. That is my biggest takeaway from experiencing these events with my daughter. Kids are like sponges. They soak in all information they come in contact with. Even before they are fully capable of processing, they take it in. They understand. And now my daughter understands that in general terms, the police treat people differently not only based on the color of their skin, but for the issues we advocate for.
I hope that one day we as a society can start setting examples for our children, because they are watching, listening, and learning from our actions.
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
The featured image is attributed to Marco Verch Professional Photographer under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
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